What is the consultation about?
The Ministry for Education launched a white paper for consultation on free and supervised school transport. You can find the English document here / Maltese document here and the published Press Release. The Ministry lists a number of proposals and is asking the public for feedback. You can send your feedback on [email protected]
Can I still have the same driver or bus?
The proposal does not change much in terms of logistics and the current system in place. In the case of state schools, the Ministry for Education will remain responsible for route planning. On the other hand, the Ministry will not intervene when it comes to route planning of non-state schools. So in short, yes. However, the transport provider needs to be accredited by the Ministry for the student to benefit from a full refund, to ensure standards and fair value.
Is it free?
Yes, the refund is in full. This works out to average savings of approximately €500 for those that today pay for this service.
Is it a refund or a tax break?
This will be worked out as a refund, not as a tax break.
Will the transport be supervised?
Yes. Educators can apply through an expression of interest that will be published. This initiative is a voluntary basis and additional compensation will be provided.
How will potential supervisors be vetted/background checked?
Supervision services will be firstly offered to existing and retired educators. If there are some positions which are still unfilled a third-party operator might be contracted to provide qualified supervisors.
Will the supervisors be responsible to the government, the schools or a private company? (in the case of an incident)
Supervisors will be responsible to keep attendance records, maintain order and report any incident to the respective school.
Will the supervisors be responsible for students left behind/not picked up?
Pick up times need to be respected both ways, i.e. both the service provider and the students. If students fail to report to the assigned location by the agreed time, neither the service provider nor the supervisor will be responsible.
How will the supervisors be paid for their service?
Government will pay for the transport supervision services directly to teaching grades within state schools and will reimburse the church and independent schools for transport supervision in the case of non-state schools.
On what basis will the transport providers be chosen?
All providers will be allowed to participate, however they must satisfy the minimum criteria which will be highlighted in the request for proposal once issued. Among other things, the Ministry will look into vehicle standards and safety for passengers.
Will large operators be preferred to smaller operators?
All operators will be in a level playing field. Those who satisfy the minimum criteria and also registered with the Ministry for Education and Employment can participate in the provision of organised school transport.
How many state school are likely to be affected by the possible change in opening hours?
Research indicates that around 60% of the state schools start at 8:30am. The Ministry will determine which of these state schools can change their opening hours without causing any unnecessary upheaval. It is important to stress that a wide consultation will take place with all stakeholders should this option be considered.
What are the school times that are likely to be chosen?
No specific school times were identified. It is suggested that some state schools shift their school times by 30 minutes. Again, this is all within the remit of this consultation and options will be discussed extensively with stakeholders.
How will the payment system operate?
Currently there are several different models in place. In the case of state schools, the Government will pay the service providers directly and thus no refunds to the parents will be issued. The payment mechanism for non-state schools is not standardised and at this stage the Government will not intervene. Parents sending their children to non-state schools will pay for the transport service and then receive a full refund. The refund will cover the rate agreed upon with the accredited transport providers.
Will parents be penalised if they fail to make use of organised school transport?
An absence threshold will be set, and supervisors will be responsible to keep attendance records on a daily basis to keep track of this. Once the refund application is received, this will be checked against the attendance records. Refunds in respect of students whose attendance is lower than the acceptable threshold will be adjusted accordingly.
What is the threshold beyond which a student is deemed to be ‘not using the service’ and is then penalised?
This will be determined at a later stage and communicated to all parents.
Can one opt out of this service?
This is an opt in system and thus one cannot just decide to stop using the service. If someone decides not to make use of this benefit, one can do so but must forgo the right to receive a refund.
If you have any queries, kindly leave a comment below.